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Kodak stock surges after probe clears CEO’s share purchases

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Kodak stock surges after probe clears CEO's share purchases

Kodak’s stock price soared Wednesday after an investigation cleared company bosses of insider trading allegations stemming from its attempted pivot to pharmaceuticals.

Shares in the onetime photography giant surged as much as 83 percent to $11.40 in early trading following the Tuesday release of a report from the law firm Akin Gump, which Kodak’s board hired to review the stock transactions made around the time it snagged a $765 million federal loan to produce drug ingredients.

The probe concluded Kodak and its bosses did not break any laws or violate company policies with the transactions around the loan announcement, which reportedly sparked federal investigations and led the US International Development Finance Corporation to put the deal on hold until the allegations were cleared.

But the lawyers urged the Rochester, New York-based company to beef up its corporate governance practices to avoid another controversy.

“Kodak is committed to the highest levels of governance and transparency, and it is clear from the review’s findings that we need to take action to strengthen our practices, policies, and procedures,” Kodak CEO Jim Continenza said in a statement.

The probe examined Continenza’s purchase of roughly 46,000 Kodak shares about a month before the loan was disclosed — which netted him two-day profit of more than $200 million as the stock price surged — along with other transactions including Kodak’s award of stock options to senior executives a day before the July 28 announcement.

Kodak’s general counsel cleared Continenza and board member Philippe Katz to buy shares in June because the company’s application for the loan “was at a highly uncertain stage” at the time, the investigation found. They also provided explanations for the purchases that were unrelated to the loan bid, according to the report.

Additionally, the options Kodak granted its executives on July 27 had been discussed before the company sought the loan, the lawyers wrote. While it’s “controversial” to award options before announcing positive news, it was not illegal under federal or state rules, the report says.

But Kodak’s general counsel, or top lawyer, followed a flawed process that failed to alert Kodak’s board to concerns about the timing of the grants, the review found. The lawyer also said he sometimes felt “overwhelmed” by his workload and that the legal department had “thin” resources, according to the report.

The probe also faulted Kodak for inadvertently leaking the announcement to local news outlets a day early, finding “a general lack of sensitivity among certain Kodak employees regarding the need to carefully control the release” of potentially material non-public information.

Wednesday’s stock surge continued a wild ride for Kodak’s shares, which climbed as high as $60 on the day of the loan announcement but fell to $6.02 a month later.

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John is a well experienced hockey player and has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on NHL.

John is a well experienced hockey player and has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on NHL.

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Montauk’s Surf Lodge pivots to wellness amid pandemic

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Montauk's Surf Lodge pivots to wellness amid pandemic

Brazilian-born trendsetter Jayma Cardoso helped put Montauk on the map when she launched The Surf Lodge in 2007 — transforming the sleepy fishing town into a popular party destination with live music performed by stars like John Legend.

But with COVID-19 crashing the party, Cardoso has been working on transforming the waterfront property into a quiet lodge that caters to health and wellness retreats, Side Dish has learned.

Gone are the packed cocktail hours and summer concert series that used to draw hordes of beachgoers to a glorious 5,000-square-foot deck overlooking the water. The deck is still used to serve the occasional food and drinks on socially distanced tables, but only for guests of the lodge. The deck’s performance space is now reserved for quiet meditation, socially distant yoga classes and other wellness programs, Cardoso said.

That’s not to say that The Surf Lodge — famous for hedonistic drinks like “The Painkiller,” made with rum and coconut — has gone dry. Imbibing is still part of the program. It’s just now interspersed with acupuncture, meditation and massage.

“It’s detox and retox,” Cardoso quipped. “We were a place to party and now we’re more of a cute little bed and breakfast. Brands and companies are moving towards smaller getaways where people can focus on health and wellness, including mental health, which is now more important than ever.”

The retreats cost an average of $10,000 to $25,000 for up to 18 people for three days, although they can run much higher depending on what services are requested. Cardoso coordinates everything, from the yoga to the food, using her wide network of health and wellness gurus.

For one upcoming retreat — for a clothing company that didn’t want to be named — guests will be able to book face masks (or butt masks) from Bawdy beauty, says Marisa Hochberg, director of wellness and partnerships at The Surf Lodge.

They will also be treated to massage and acupuncture treatments from The Yinova Center, founded by Dr. Jill Blakeway, who claims to merge “ancient Chinese wisdom” with science. Early sunset yoga with Cristina Cuomo and Erika Halwell will be offered on the deck where musicians like G. Love and Jaden Smith once entertained massive crowds.

And yes, booze will be served during the cocktail hour. But instead of $85 pitchers of mojitos, guests will be treated to a mix of grapefruit, Aperol and Casamigos tequila along with non-alcoholic fresh juices created by plant-based chef Adam Kenworthy.

“Alcohol has been proven to be healthy for the body in moderation — two drinks a night for men and one for women,” Kenworthy told Side Dish. “Having a drink is a celebration. “It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the day. Everything we serve is clean and organic, from the mixers to the wines.”

Jayma Cardoso, Founder & Owner of The Surf Lodge (left) and Marisa Hochberg, Brand Partnerships and Wellness Director
Jayma Cardoso, Founder & Owner of The Surf Lodge (left) and Marisa Hochberg, Brand Partnerships and Wellness DirectorGREG KESSLER/KESSLER STUDIO

For Cardoso, the switch was necessary to save her business. Despite its name, the lodge’s 21 rooms were long an afterthought to the bustling food and drink business, which accounted for 85 percent of revenues. But with the lodge’s food and drink services now closed to the public, booking rooms has become the center of attention.

“Corporate retreats are helping us make payroll,” Cardoso said.

Vacationers are still a part of the program when there are no health and wellness retreats, but guests are not there to party like they did in the past. They, too, are treated to a bit of the lodge’s new health and wellness focus, including mini bars stocked with vegan supplements, lip balms, Vitamin C packs and, of course, hand sanitizers.

The retreats, which Cardoso predicts are here to stay, have also helped extend The Surf Lodge’s season and revenue stream.

“We never stayed open past the end of September. Now we’re fully sold out,” she said. “People have expanded their season to get the most that they can away from the city because if there is another lockdown they know they will be stuck in their apartments.”

“I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to the old days. I think people’s perceptions have changed dramatically about larger crowds, and hugging and kissing. I am Brazilian, and l am very loving, hugging and kissing, and now I am very much elbowing people.”

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Verizon scrambling to unload HuffPost as losses mount

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Verizon scrambling to unload HuffPost as losses mount

Verizon has been quietly scrambling to unload HuffPost as it grapples with continued losses at the left-leaning news and culture website, The Post has learned. 

The telecom giant — which acquired the site formerly known as the Huffington Post as part of its $4.4 billion purchase of AOL in 2015 — has approached multiple digital-media companies during the past few months in a bid to get the property off its books as losses accelerate due to the coronavirus, according to sources close to the situation.

Verizon has pitched the property to prospective buyers including Thrillist-owner Group Nine Media, Rolling Stone publisher Penske Media Corp., Bustle Digital Media and J2 Global, insiders said. Those media outlets declined to comment.

Vox Media, which owns New York Magazine and operates news and political site Vox as well as tech news sites Recode and The Verge, is among the media outlets to have held talks to acquire HuffPost. Some sources have described those talks as “serious,” but sources close to Vox, while acknowledging they have taken a look, say they are not interested in buying the property.

Even Group Nine — whose CEO is Ben Lerer, the son of Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer — took a pass, according to a source close to the situation.

“This thing loses so much money,” a digital media executive with knowledge of the financials said. “It’s such a mess, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. I don’t think there’s any way you can make money.”

People briefed on the talks said Verizon, headed by CEO Hans Vestberg, appears to be seeking to offload HuffPost to a buyer willing to take a knife to the site’s high operating expenses — a potentially daunting process that would require going head-to-head with the site’s union and enacting “massive layoffs,” sources said. 

While HuffPost brings in between $45 million to $50 million a year in revenue, its annual expenses are between $60 million and $70 million, two sources said. And with advertising slammed by the pandemic, it will likely bring in $40 million this year, the sources said. 

Verizon is looking to maintain a minority stake while the buyer “does the dirty work” of cutting costs and dealing with severance packages, one source opined.

He estimated that roughly one-third to a half of HuffPost’s staff would need to be cut to enable any buyer to “break even” on the deal. According to the company’s masthead, HuffPost has roughly 200 employees. HuffPost’s editorial staff is unionized with the Writer’s Guild of America East.

Other challenges include a “toxic culture” among staffers that’s plagued by “distrust in the organization” and “in-fighting” over how “left” the publication should be, one source said. 

“Who wants to buy ads on the thing? Nobody. If Verizon can’t make money on it, who can?,” the source said. “And, you have to fire half the people? There goes the traffic. The brand means nothing anymore and it’s ultra-partisan.” 

Founded by Arianna Huffington in 2005, HuffPost began as a counterpart to conservative sites like Drudge Report. In 2016, Lydia Polgreen took the reins as top editor from Huffington, who left to build a wellness and lifestyle company, Thrive Global. In March, Polgreen left to head up content for Spotify’s podcasting company, Gimlet Media. The company has yet to name Polgreen’s replacement. 

Verizon didn’t respond to requests for comment on Monday.

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Target muscles in on Amazon’s Prime Day — again

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Target muscles in on Amazon’s Prime Day — again

Target has finally announced the date for its big annual shopping event — and it just so happens to coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day.

Target’s Deal Days event will take place on October 13 and 14 and “will feature digital deals on hundreds of thousands of items, more than double last year,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

Target did not address the fact that Amazon’s annual discounting event, also announced on Monday, will take place on the same two days. The giant retailers have overlapped and locked horns before over their competing sales events.

In launching its two-day shopping event in 2018, Target took a swipe at Amazon’s $119 Prime membership fee by pointing out that Target shoppers don’t need to be members to get its discounts.

The program’s debut, which offered up to 50 percent off home goods, apparel and national brands, ended up being one of the biggest days of the year for Target’s online sales, the company said at the time.

Amazon’s Prime Day is usually held in July, but it postponed the five-year-old shopping extravaganza this year due to the coronavirus, which strained Amazon’s ability to deliver and fulfill orders in the early days of the pandemic.

Now that its been moved to October, Prime Day is expected to be the largest shopping day of the fourth quarter, overshadowing both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to a Retailmenot survey of retailers.

One reason is that other retailers are expected to jump on the Oct. 13-14 bandwagon, said Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at Retailmenot, which tracks deals. Retailers are expected to offer the deepest discounts of the year at this time in part to appease shoppers looking to avoid the holiday crush as well as delivery delays caused by the coronavirus.

Forty-six percent of shoppers this year say they will start their holiday shopping earlier, up from 38 percent last year, Skirboll said.  “We know that shoppers are looking to start shopping earlier than ever, because they are concerned about getting their items on time this year.”

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John is a well experienced hockey player and has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on NHL.

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